Amtrak No. 351 westbound from Pontiac to Chicago passes Hammond-Whiting station
|Service type||Higher speed inter-city rail|
|First service||May 1, 1971|
|Former operator(s)||Penn Central|
|Distance travelled||304 miles (489 km)|
|Average journey time||6 hours 20 minutes|
|Service frequency||Thrice daily|
|Rolling stock||P42DC locomotives, Amfleet cars, Horizon cars.|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operating speed||Up to 110 miles per hour (180 km/h)|
|Track owner(s)||NS, CN, Amtrak, CR|
The Wolverine is a higher speed passenger train service operated by Amtrak as part of its Michigan Services. The 304-mile (489 km) line provides three daily round-trips along the Pontiac–Detroit–Chicago route. It carries a heritage train name descended from the New York Central (Michigan Central).
During fiscal year 2011, the Wolverine carried 503,290 passengers, a 4.9% increase from FY 2010's total of 479,782 passengers. The service had a total revenue of US$18.8 million in FY 2011, an 11% increase from FY 2010's $16.9 million total revenue.
Prior to Amtrak's takeover of most private-sector passenger service in 1971 the Wolverine was one of three trains which operated over the Michigan Central route between Chicago and Detroit. Under Penn Central operation it continued through South-Western Ontario (Canada) to Buffalo, New York. Amtrak retained two trains (the other was the renamed St. Clair) and truncated the operation to Detroit but otherwise changed little. In April 1975, Amtrak introduced French-built Turboliner equipment to the Michigan route and added a third round-trip. A pool of three Turboliner trainsets served the route, and the three round-trip pairs were numbered 350—355, train numbers which are still in use today. Amtrak dropped the individual train names and rebranded all three Turboliner, in common with similar services to St. Louis, Missouri and Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The new equipment led to massive gains in ridership, topping 340,000 in 1975 and 370,000 in 1976.:195–196
The Turboliners became a victim of their own success. Although fast (and flashy), they were unable to reach their design speed of 125 mph (201 km/h) because of the poor quality of the Penn Central track in Michigan. The five-car fixed consists had a maximum capacity of 292 passengers, which was often not enough. Starting in March 1976 Amtrak began replacing some of the Turboliners with conventional equipment, including new Amfleet coaches. Individual names returned to the corridor, with the heretofore unnamed third train becoming the Twilight Limited.:195–196 The last Turboliners left the corridor in 1981.:202
Amtrak extended the Wolverine and Twilight Limited to Pontiac on May 5, 1994. With this change service began at a new station in Detroit's New Center. Although the Michigan Central Station in Corktown, Detroit had closed on January 6, 1988, trains continued to stop at a temporary platform just east of the old station. Besides Pontiac, new stations were opened at Royal Oak and Birmingham. The Lake Cities also began serving Pontiac after the end of Toledo service in 1995.:199–200
Amtrak dropped individual names again in 2004 and named all three trains Wolverine.
Due to the increased ridership on these trains, Amtrak executive Morell Savoy, the Central Division Superintendent, spearheaded a test run of Chicago-Kalamazoo Wolverines from September 2, 2010, to September 7, 2010. This was done to determine all that would be involved in operations should Amtrak decide to initiate such service in the future.
Higher speed operation
The federal government considers high-speed rail service to be rail service which at any time reaches the speed of 110 miles per hour (180 km/h) or higher. In 2006 the Detroit–Chicago corridor was designated by the Federal Railroad Administration as a high-speed rail corridor and in October, 2010, the State of Michigan received US$150 million from the federal government to increase track speeds to 110-mile-per-hour between Kalamazoo and Dearborn.
Amtrak owns the 97-mile (156 km) stretch of the Wolverine's route from Porter, Indiana to Kalamazoo, Michigan and it is the longest segment of track owned by Amtrak outside of the Northeast Corridor. Starting in January, 2002 Amtrak began track improvements to increase the allowed speed along this section of track. Amtrak trains currently travel at top speeds of 110 miles per hour (mph, 177 km/h) along this section of track.
On October 5, 2011, MDOT announced that it had reached an agreement with Norfolk Southern to purchase the 135 mi (217 km) of track between Kalamazoo and Dearborn. This will make it easier to maintain track and eventually upgrade it to 110 mph (180 km/h) running. As part of the purchase agreement, MDOT also agreed to double-track the line east of Ypsilanti.
- NS Chicago Line, Chicago to Porter
- Amtrak Chicago–Detroit Line, Porter to Kalamazoo
- MDOT (d/b/a Amtrak) Michigan Line, Kalamazoo to Dearborn
- CN South Bend Sub from CP Gord to CP Baron (about .8 miles) in Battle Creek, MI
- Amtrak Chicago–Detroit Line, Dearborn to West Detroit
- CR North Yard Branch, West Detroit to Vinewood
- CN Shore Line Subdivision and Holly Subdivision, Vinewood to Pontiac
As of 2014[update], each Wolverine operates with two General Electric Genesis P42DC locomotives, 3-5 Horizon coaches, and an Amfleet cafe/business class car. The equipment pool for the Wolverines comprises 14 Horizon coaches and 3.5 Amfleet cafe/business class cars (one is shared with the Blue Water), split across three consists. Between 2016-2018 Michigan expects to take delivery of new bilevel cars which will displace the Horizons and Amfleets in regular service. In addition, in early 2014 the Michigan Department of Transportation issued a request for proposal aimed at acquiring additional passenger equipment for use between 2014-2017.
- "Annual Ridership Summary". MDOT Rail Statistics. MDOT. Retrieved 17 October 2013.
- Michigan Department of Transportation (March 3, 2014). "SCOPE OF SERVICE FOR SPECIALTY SERVICES: Purchase, Lease, or Lease/Purchase of Intercity Railroad Passenger Cars and Contract for Associated Maintenance Services". Retrieved 2014-05-03.
- "Amtrak reports record Michigan ridership". The Grand Rapids Press. October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 16, 2011.
- Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. OCLC 61499942.
- Amtrak (May 1, 1994). "National Timetable Spring/Summer 1994". Retrieved 2011-11-05.
- "Amtrak Tests Kalamazoo-Chicago Round Trips", Trains, December 2010, 21.
- "High-Speed Rail Strategic Plan: Press Release & Highlights" (PDF). U.S. Department of Transportation. April 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-20.[dead link]
- "Amtrak Fact Sheet, Fiscal Year 2006". State of Michigan. Retrieved 2007-05-13.
- "Michigan awarded $150M for high-speed rail route". The Detroit News. October 25, 2010. Retrieved October 28, 2010.[dead link]
- Amtrak Press Release, February 15, 2012, AMTRAK 110 MPH MICHIGAN SERVICE CELEBRATION,"Amtrak extended ITCS coverage to the western and eastern ends of the line between Porter and Kalamazoo last year, completing the system across 97 miles of track and permitting the higher speeds on about 80 miles of the route, 64 miles in Michigan and 16 in Indiana. The FRA granted approval for regular service at 110 mph (177 kph) on Jan. 27, 2012."
- MDOT - MDOT seeks to improve both passenger and freight rail lines with purchase of Norfolk Southern Railway track
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